Tips & How-Tos

Making the Most of Elopement and Micro Wedding Photo Sessions

On January 1, 2020, we all made resolutions and decided that this was going to be “our year”. COVID-19 came in and sent our worlds spinning! With every country and state that shut down, a little piece of our hearts broke a little more. As much as we’d love to believe things will be “back to normal” soon, this is highly unlikely. No matter how much we love large wedding parties at luxury destinations, as business owners, this is our time to pivot.

Our clients are becoming discouraged, but it is our job to instill hope into their crushed wedding dreams. Clients may come to you with a new, scaled-back plan to only cover the ceremony and a few portraits after, and that’s okay! While I enjoy a grandiose, extravagant wedding with 500 guests as much as the next person, there is a level of intimacy that you build and foster with your couples when it is just you, the couple and a handful (if that!) of others in attendance.

There are so many different ways that “micro weddings” and elopements can be made special for the couple, but I would have to say that my favorite part is how much time they spend together on the actual day — which translates to more photos of them than you’d normally get at a larger wedding. At a typical wedding, the couple rarely sees each other at all before the ceremony unless they’re doing a “first look” photo, and even then, the first look tends to be closer to ceremony time. With elopements, since there is no need for a venue with a large capacity potential, the couple tends to spend the majority of the day together. Some spend their pre-ceremony time helping each other get dressed, talking about the future and video chatting with friends and family. It is our job and privilege to guide them into seeing how they can get so much more out of their day. Let’s dig into how we make this happen!

Wedding Day Details

Regardless of a date change, venue change, or how many guests they have, details still matter! They still invested in their details to make the wedding of their dreams come true! Rings will still be exchanged, floral arrangements crafted, and a cute new invitation suite can be designed for this smaller occasion!

The same detail shots that were originally planned should still be captured, and for this, my go-to lens is the 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM MACRO. When I first started, I was intimidated by macros because when I thought macro, I thought photos of a tiny bee on a flower. I didn’t want to buy a lens that I didn’t think was versatile, but this SIGMA 105mm can do it ALL! This lens has been my #1 for details on a wedding day, but I also bring this lens out for portraits and ceremony too — we’ll get more into that later!

Using a macro lens (specifically the SIGMA 105mm) gives you the ability to capture details both large and small with precision and purpose without sacrificing the clarity of whatever you’re photographing. Creating a flat lay for your couple’s details is an easy way to ensure that nothing is forgotten. Gather all the details of the day that are important to your couple — think shoes, jewelry, invitations or announcements, heirlooms and their ONBB (old, new, borrowed and blue) items — and utilize your surroundings to style the details in a way that ties into the full story of the day. Once you have your couple’s wedding items styled in your flat lay, you can capture them as a collective with a wider focal length (think 35mm F1.4 Art) and grab shots of each individual item with ease using the 105mm. This lens gets you close enough to the details to capture each individual stitch without worrying about your breath knocking something down as you exhale! Never hold your breath during details again!

Getting Ready Before Tying the Knot

So what if your clients are getting ready in their home instead of a 5-star hotel? They are still taking all the steps they would have originally! This hour counts! Take close up shots of things like getting zipped and buttoned into their wedding day attire, the spraying of perfume/cologne, and those final finishing touches. These tiny, important details of the day are almost always shot with my 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art or 85mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art. Both give me the ability to create a connection and intimacy in the images that can’t be matched.

One of the most popular draws to the 85mm Art is the capability to open your aperture up to that creamy F1.4! This allows you to isolate your subject in a way that leaves the background as soft and dreamy as clouds! I prefer shooting with prime lenses over zooms because I like the idea of using a lens for the exact focal range that it was built for. That gives me an even higher level of confidence when I am shooting because I don’t have to concern myself with changing the focal length, and it allows for more creativity. When using a zoom lens, it’s easy to let creativity fall by the wayside because with the flick of my wrist I can be closer or farther away. Using a prime, I am forced to physically move my body to be where I need to be to get the shot I’ve envisioned for that specific moment.

Wedding Gift / Letter Exchanges

It’s important to remind couples of the reason they are doing all of this. At the end of the day, they will have these photographs and each other. Encourage them to exchange gifts and/or write letters to each other. These are special intimate moments that can be created for free! Find somewhere intimate and beautiful to capture the emotions of this exchange. The SIGMA 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art is perfect for this. You are far enough to give them space as they open them and just close enough to capture the emotions of the exchange.

First Look with Parents

Moments with parents can be captured in a small “getting ready” room, or you can take them to the same location you plan to do the couple’s portraits to create cohesion in the backgrounds in their wedding album. This intimate moment with the people they’ve spent all of their life with right before they start the rest of their lives is a gift that their parents will cherish forever. It’s a moment they will never forget and a reminder that they still hold a special place in their child’s life. Since my SIGMA 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art is one of my most versatile lenses, this would be my go-to for these moments.

First Look or First Touch

A lot of couples have plans to do a first look and then think it’s unnecessary once they are changing it to a smaller event. This is still 100% necessary!! Express to them how important it is that when they are fully dressed as a bride or groom for the first time, those final touches have been completed, and they’re not completely dripping with nervous sweat walking down the aisle is the perfect time to devote 30 full minutes to taking portraits. The moment they turn around to see their fianc√© on their wedding day for the first time can be captured at a distance by the SIGMA 135mm F1.8 DG HSM | Art, 105mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art and 85mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art.

No matter how comfortable your clients are in front of the camera, these moments are ones that you don’t want to interfere with by being too far in their space. Using an 85mm Art, 105mm (Art or Macro) or 135mm Art gives you the ability to stand far enough back that they feel no pressure to look a certain way for the camera when they shouldn’t have to think about that at all. These lenses offer privacy for your couples, but the images come out crystal clear and they will be left wondering how you got those images standing so far away! These moments are going to be what’s on their walls and in their wedding albums forever. Remind them of the importance.

After you’ve captured these significant pre-ceremony photos, you can proceed with the rest of the day as usual. Make sure that you are paying special attention to each guest in attendance because with the limited guest count, you can guarantee that these are their favorite people in the world! Showing your clients that you can still celebrate them and capture their day authentically and beautifully even with a limited guest list will only show them that they made the right decision in choosing you! During times like these, where planning a wedding feels like a gamble at every turn, you have an incredible opportunity to put your couple at ease!

Shoot (and Practice) with Different Focal Lengths

Changing up your lenses throughout the day versus shooting with just one or two will always leave more room for creativity. Earlier I mentioned how shooting with prime lenses forces me to be creative because I have to physically move, and while that’s true, it also makes for easy work in expanding my portfolio. Before the day of the wedding, practice and play around with your lenses at home. Photograph your dog in the backyard in all different lighting situations with all of your different lenses — you can even rent a lens that you don’t already own to test it out before you buy! This will give you a full gallery of images that you can study to learn the capabilities of each lens and their different advantages.

Comb through that gallery and take notes on how the background looks on an 85mm F1.4 versus a 35mm F1.4. Pay attention to the detail that’s captured in the blades of grass and play around with flat lays at home so that when the wedding day comes, you’re prepared for any situation that arises. Use every lens you have to photograph the same flat lay (try to include as many small details as possible) and compare those images and choose the lens that best fits your vision for that image. You’ll be able to see which lens, at which aperture, delivers the look that you want, and when the wedding day arrives, you will navigate through the entire timeline with ease, no matter how long or short the day is!

Comments (1)
  1. Michelle, this is beautiful photography. Your images are wonderful and have an eye for photographing great images. My fav lens is the Sigma 35mm too, and agree the images just pop when shooting at 1.4.

    Micro weddings is a strange concept as I photograph lots of Indian weddings, the number of guests tend to be 500-700 typically. It was refreshing when small weddings was the norm, as its nice to capture all the guests and concentrate on the bride and groom more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *